NioCorp estimates a 92% recovery of rare earths at the pilot plant. (Photo NioCorp – Mining.com)
Rare earth miner NioCorp Developments has been successful in producing a high purity compound concentrate of the sought-after elements from its demonstration plant in Canada.
The company said the results of the L3 process development in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, support the technical feasibility of separating high-purity oxides of several key magnetic rare earths from ore mined at the Elk Creek Project (Nebraska).
NioCorp aims to produce metals such as niobium, scandium and titanium at Elk Creek, which are in high demand.
This is due to its widespread use in products such as mobile phones and electric vehicles.
The company also said that NioCorp’s patent-pending rare earth extraction and purification process used solutions generated by upstream operations of the demonstration plant.
The rare earths precipitate from solution to produce a solid containing 6% praseodymium (Pr) oxide.
Also 25% neodymium oxide (Nd), 0.35% terbium oxide (Tb) and 1.6% dysprosium oxide (Dy).
The rest of the solids consist mainly of rare earths with minor impurities of base metals.
With these results and subject to additional performance testing in the coming weeks, the L3 process engineering team has determined that the overall recovery for these four magnetic rare earths is likely to exceed 92%.
And they meet commercial purity specifications for magnetic rare earth oxides.
compete with china
Despite its limited efforts to find alternative sources of rare earths, the United States is heavily dependent on China.
as well as to obtain these critical materials from Chinese owned companies.
NioCorp is one of several players in the rare earths industry that has lobbied US lawmakers.
This is so that they will approve a law that would encourage the national manufacture of rare earth permanent magnets.
The US government hopes to find new mineral and metal deposits across the country by digitizing 100-year-old geological maps and information from flying exploration planes.
The Biden administration is also funding programs to recover valuable minerals and metals from old mine waste dumps.
The importance of domestic supplies of the critical metal became apparent in 2010, when China blocked exports of rare earths to Japan during a dispute with a fishing boat, which drove up prices.
Since then, tensions have risen between Washington and Beijing, raising fears of supply chain disruptions for political and economic reasons.